Phoenix criminal defence lawyer Debra Gavitt says her clients have been left with debt collectors after a decade of legal work.
Gavitt, who was hired by the Phoenix police department in 2014, has represented clients in civil suits, family violence cases and medical matters for more than 20 years.
“We have clients who are owed money, people who have been abused, people whose children are missing,” she said.
“And we also have clients that have been assaulted and we have clients like myself that have lost jobs.”
The Phoenix Police Department declined to answer questions about Gavits work, but the department’s human resources department said in a statement that Gavit has been an effective public defender and that her clients are “frequently served by our human resources office”.
“Ms Gavtt is proud of her successful representation of her clients in court, and has consistently provided outstanding representation,” it said.
“As Ms Gavt continues to expand her practice, she will continue to serve her clients with professionalism and compassion.”
Phoenix police is proud to have a highly skilled and experienced human resources representative in Ms Gvits office.
“We are also excited to welcome Ms Gvaitt to our staff, and to continue our collaboration with her on other matters.”
The police department has been forced to pay the Phoenix criminal justice system over $3.7 million in debt collections in the past five years after a series of lawsuits by a group of ex-detainees and others, the Associated Press reports.
The AP’s investigation found that the Phoenix department collected more than $3 million in debts and fees from ex-defendants who were eventually freed after a court case.
The police department also racked up more than half a million in unpaid court fees in 2015 alone.
A number of lawsuits against the Phoenix Police department have been settled, and a judge recently ruled that the department had to pay back $1.4 million in legal fees it claimed to have paid.
But it’s not just the city that has struggled with debt collections, Phoenix’s public defender system is also facing criticism.
In January, a lawsuit filed by a former ex-police officer who was involved in the 2011 death of 25-year-old Daniel Diaz was settled, the AP reported.
The settlement includes an apology from the city and a $1,000 fine, AP reported, citing the Arizona Republic newspaper.
Diaz’s mother, Luisa Diaz, told the newspaper that her son died in police custody because of an “incredible, pervasive pattern of abuse” and that she and other family members had been unable to pay her son’s debts.
“There are a number of people that have tried to go to court and get their money back, but they’ve been refused because they were not financially stable,” she told the paper.
“It’s not easy.”
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